Have you seen the hashtag, #metoo? If you have, then you know these people are being brave enough to share publicly that they have been the victims of sexual abuse. Good for them I say, because all too often people suffer their abuse in silence. I applaud the speaking out and up about abuse, because when we do so, the abuser begins to lose their power over us.
Abuse is a real thing. It is not just sexual, it is verbal, physical, emotional and even religious. Anytime we believe that we must force our strength, words/opinions and beliefs over someone else, it's abuse.
Perhaps a more appropriate word for what I have experienced is bruising. I find the deep seated roots of this bruising to go so deep that it almost feels like it's inscribed in my DNA. Though it is not, I have found the struggle to escape the snares to be real and ongoing. Those words spoken or actions taken by past abusers can come back in our weakest moments. They also come at times when we are least expecting of it. The degradation, doubt and despair can creep in like a flood and all hope vanishes.
Emotional, verbal and religious abuse takes on so many forms. It can be as simple as ugly words that degrade an individual. It can be the refusal to say words that bring life and hope to another. It can be the avoidance of saying, "I Love You", and the stubborn refusal to say you are sorry. It is the lack of touch, hugs and kisses of kindness that every soul craves and needs. It can be that we blame an individual for their illness and we avoid the belief that the illness, such as mental illness, is real. It can be that we ignore those we don't quite understand and we blame them for how their illness makes them act. These are all things I and my husband have experienced.
At every turn of the road...childhood dreams, high school hopes, college, boyfriends, marriage, babies, moves, challenges, losses and struggles...I know what it is to face scorn, shaming, and criticism that left me alone, afraid and emotionally abused. It wasn't from the masses but from people who should have been my greatest allies. It's a real story that has left me struggling to believe in myself so as to see my value and worth. I was often left emotionally empty and hurting. Often when I needed a shoulder to cry on, I rarely experienced this kind of support.
When menopause first hit me, I came crashing down. My emotions were raw. I was void and empty. Depression and grief visited me often. I had little fortitude or strength to believe in myself. I looked in the mirror, deep into my soul and knew the ones who had bruised my heart must be forgiven so that I could heal. I screamed! I cried! I poured my pain out to the one who made me and to my poor husband...God knows he didn't need me to fall apart. I can still picture me down on my knees, a broken and wailing mess. But, there I was broken and hurting and he listened and let me vent because he has always believed in me. I forgave once and for all, but I still have to forgive when the sad memories arise. In the grand scheme of things, I forgave and just let go! I was forever changed on that day.
It is interesting...today as I write this, there are far less tears. God knows I have cried buckets of them. My emotions are healing finally, though some days I still cry at what has been lost. I have learned to forgive. I must forgive because if I don't, (and I didn't for years), it will cost even deeper emotional pain. And though I have forgiven the abusers a thousand times, I look at myself and know that I am and will never ever be the same. It could have been different, but it wasn't. The only positive spin is to say that I can hope to help others by sharing my story even though it isn't as dramatic as others.
Today I am different. Though I often look inward and see the scars of past emotional abuse, I look at myself and know I am loved, and I know I love myself. That alone is a great miracle! Sometimes those haunting words, losses and deep emotional memories creep in and I have to dismiss them swiftly before I let them sink in and do repeated damage.
To all of you who have been battered, bruised and broken; in whatever way the abuse has occurred, I want you to know that you are loved and your life and story matters. Say it! Share it! Someone needs to hear it, if not you. You need to hear your story and know your own value and worth was not written in stone when you were being abused. Forgiveness wipes the slate clean and you can get up and start all over again. So forgive seventy times seven and over and over until you lose count.
In saying all this, please know that I understand forgiveness doesn't fix a thing, except it fixes your heart. It doesn't make people come and say they are sorry. It just allows you permission to hurt and to feel the pain...to acknowledge that it is real and then to say you can free yourself from it.
I don't have any easy answers for how to handle your abuser. Sometimes confronting the abuser works but often it does not and it only makes you feel worse. I have written letters and left it at that. I have never received the words that I wanted or needed to hear but it is what it is. I can't change them. I can only change me. I realize more people than me are broken and they may hurt in ways that I have no idea of and I imagine this to be very true.
I know you cannot give from an empty well. Today as I look in the mirror, I see a miracle. I think it is a miracle that I even love myself at all. It's a miracle that I can be creative and think freely and do something that is an artistic representation and extension of myself. I love me. I am proud that I have been strong enough to walk through the pain and learn to express my heart to my husband and my girls. I am deeply emotional and I never let the well of emotions dry up and betray me. I need them, for often my tears are my only way to grieve. I have cried and wailed to my little family and they have loved me through it all. I have been able to speak words of love and hope in spite of the suffering of my own soul. That is a miracle! I have always wanted my daughters to know and believe they are of infinite value. They are beautiful and strong. This is my success.
If you have been abused in any way, forgive! Forgive it all! Forgive often, if not daily. Trust yourself to the one who made you. God is infinite in his love and wisdom. If he values you and me, then at the end of the day, we should do the same... no matter who said or did what. God is not changed because of evil doers or sayers. He is still the same and he loves you beyond your wildest imagination. However, we often need to grieve the losses. And grief takes time and patience. You just don't fix broken hearts, lives and souls overnight. Forgiveness isn't a magic wand! It takes unimaginable fortitude to grieve and walk through the painful tragedies of life...to examine the experience and to glean any nuggets from the situation that you can in order to salvage your self respect. For each experience it will be different. I just know and believe that God makes triumphs out of our tragedies.
I have never really said part of my story out loud before. Today is my day to speak hope to you and to myself. By speaking up and out, I am saying that I love myself in spite of...! I am proud of myself for being strong enough to endure and for getting past my pain.
For all of you #metoo persons, I know your pain is real. When you are ready, be strong and brave and share your story. It strengthens you!
Love to you all!